Trump Brags That He’s Helping Patients Access Medical ‘Miracles.’ He Isn’t.

In Healthcare On

President Trump makes extraordinary claims about the success of the Right to Try law, which was designed to give terminally ill people access to experimental medical treatments before they’ve been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “I tell you, it’s a miracle — so many people have been saved,” he said at a rally in Lake Charles, La., last month, describing how desperately ill people were, thanks to him, able to access the work of the “best doctors and labs, technicians in the world.” When he signed the law in May 2018, he used even more sweeping language: “We will be saving … thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands” of lives. The Trump 2020 campaign has used the law to promote the idea that the GOP is “the party of health care.”

Unfortunately, Right to Try appears to be helping very few people. The “incredible” transformation that Trump described in Louisiana is a fantasy: Right to Try mainly succeeds at giving its political backers a cheap public relations victory, even as they exploit the hopes of dying Americans.

Proponents frame the statute as a triumph for the freedom of patients to take sensible risks if they are essentially out of options. Under the law, if a drug has completed a Phase I clinical trial, which determines the highest safe dose of a new intervention (whose effectiveness has yet to be proved), then pharmaceutical companies may make their experimental therapies available to extremely ill people who request them. These patients don’t have to ask the FDA for permission, drug companies can bypass ethics boards that normally monitor drug tests and the companies are shielded from lawsuits.

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